Call it a case of dueling dinner parties.
President Bill Clinton and former Sen. Bill Bradley will come to the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend to rub elbows with high-technology executives and venture capitalists, another sign of Silicon Valley's expanding political influence.
Besides dropping off his daughter, Chelsea, at Stanford University, Clinton will attend a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner at the home of CNET chief executive Halsey Minor in San Francisco on Saturday night. The newly formed Technology Network, a bipartisan political group of Silicon Valley executives, helped organize the soiree.
That same evening, Bradley will attend a party in Silicon Valley that will be attended by another set of technology and venture-capital bigwigs, among others. Bradley, a New Jersey Democrat and former New York Knicks basketball star, may decide to run for president in the year 2000, potentially pitting him against Vice President Al Gore.
Sources say the timing of the two Saturday night events is purely coincidental. But it is already fueling "inside the Beltway" gossip in the high-tech community--once known alternately for its political ambivalence or naivete--as well as political comparisons between Gore and Bradley, at least in private.
Some see Gore and Clinton as champions of the high-tech industry, having helped to coin the term "information superhighway." But others complain that their actions largely have been more symbolic than substantive. They see Bradley as a politically friendly alternative, noting that he voted to override Clinton's veto of a bill to deter alleged securities fraud lawsuits in December 1995. Curbing frivolous shareholder suits is a top priority in the high-tech industry.
A spokesman for Bradley was coy about the former senator's presidential aspirations. "It is too early to make any decisions, although he hasn't ruled anything out," the spokesman said, adding that Bradley was attending a private party, not a fund-raiser.
Regardless of his decision about the White House, Bradley will be spending more time in Silicon Valley in the near term. He is going to be a visiting professor at Stanford's Institute for International Studies for the next nine months.
The White House declined to comment on Clinton's itinerary, other than confirming his trip to Stanford with Chelsea. CNET's Minor also declined comment. (NEWS.COM is published by CNET: The Computer Network.)
The Technology Network reiterated that its goal is to advance industry causes, not support any one political party or ideology. "Our ultimate goal, regardless of who is elected, is that the individual has a strong relationship with the technology community," said Dan Schnur, a political director with the group. He added that the Technology Network plans to meet with Republican presidential candidates as well.